Mets' Delgado to undergo hip surgery
Return date uncertain; Tatis, Reed, Murphy to play first
LOS ANGELES -- By the time Carlos Delgado had completed his otherworldly power binge last summer, spanning the final four months of the season, the $12 million price tag attached to the end of his contract had become anything but an option. A 40-home run threat at that price seemed unfathomable in a game where power equals money.
But Delgado will not hit 40 home runs this year, nor is he likely to come particularly close. The Mets' regular cleanup hitter ensured that much Monday, opting for arthroscopic surgery to repair a labrum tear and remove a bone spur in his right hip.
Mets team physician Struan Coleman will perform Delgado's procedure at Manhattan's Hospital for Special Surgery on Tuesday; the Mets have not provided an initial timetable for his return.
"I wasn't too optimistic about it," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "What we have to do now is try to find out how we're going to continue to play good baseball without Carlos Delgado."
Delgado's condition, an impingement of his right hip, caused the labrum tear and finally forced him on the disabled list on Saturday. By that point, it had become overwhelmingly likely that Delgado would require surgery.
He joins a cluster of prominent players who have had surgery to repair labrum tears in their hips in recent months -- Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, Alex Gordon of the Royals, Mike Lowell of the Red Sox and Chase Utley of the Phillies. Lowell and Utley had their procedures this past offseason, and both are back to full strength. Rodriguez underwent his operation in March and recently returned, seeming equally unaffected. Gordon's surgery was the most recent of the three; he is still recovering.
If nothing else, baseball's rash of hip injuries has given the Mets a rough idea of how long Delgado may need to recover. At best, it could be a matter of weeks. At worst, a matter of months.
In either scenario, the Mets will be scraping to replace Delgado's production.
"Having that guy day in and day out, a lefty power bat who can change the game, he's going to be missed," right fielder Ryan Church said. "All we can do is pray for a speedy recovery and get him back in there."
"We're going to miss him," center fielder Carlos Beltran said. "He's a big part of this ballclub and also a big part of this lineup."
In Delgado's absence, the Mets will rely on Fernando Tatis, Jeremy Reed and Daniel Murphy -- a natural third baseman and two outfielders -- to play first base. The Mets have insisted in recent days that they will not look outside the organization for help, though that could change if Delgado requires a lengthy recovery.
Prior to this season, Tatis had played 60 innings at first base in a 10-year career, most of them last season with the Mets. Reed, who started twice there in San Francisco last weekend, had played one inning at the position. And Murphy, another natural third baseman who has been playing exclusively in the outfield for almost a year now, had never played a professional inning at first.
Regardless, Manuel insists that he is not worried about that group's extreme inexperience.
"We made a real good run last year with people who were not in their natural positions," he said, referring to the experiments that landed Murphy and Tatis in the outfield. "I'm just interested in the guys that we have."
More difficult will be the prospect of replacing Delgado's power; he led the team in home runs last season with 38, and had hit 100 over his first three seasons with the Mets. Recent acquisition Gary Sheffield has been regularly hitting in the cleanup spot, but at 40 years old, Sheffield is a shell of the power threat he was in his prime.
"Delgado's a different type of player," Sheffield said. "He's a power hitter. He can hit the ball out of any ballpark. Obviously, we're going to miss his power, but we're going to have to score runs any way we can now without him there, and hopefully we can get him back sooner than later."
The one silver lining of Delgado's injury, according to Manuel, is that it may force third baseman David Wright to seize the leadership role that many around the organization have long hoped he would embrace. Demonstrative in backing Mike Pelfrey on Sunday after Pelfrey balked three times in a game, Wright has been growing into a team leader throughout his six years with the Mets.
With the veteran Delgado away from the team for an extended period of time, Wright will now become the clear leader of what's quickly becoming a makeshift infield.
"Maybe he's getting ready to evolve into that which we all thought that he could be," Manuel said."
"I'm going to try to lead by example," Wright said. "That's what Carlos brought to the table, was his desire to want to be out there every day. All the work that he puts in. All the studying of opposing pitchers that he does. That's something that I'm going to have to pick up where he left off."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.